Don't bully Ireland on tax after UK leaves EU - Coveney
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has warned against any attempt at EU level to "bully" Ireland into accepting a proposal to standardise corporation tax after Britain leaves the bloc.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, the minister warned that a Europe dominated by two or three big countries would not last, and would risk pushing smaller states into following the UK out.
While the European Union needs to be bolder on the world stage, the minister said, the views of small countries matter.
Mr Coveney issued a strong warning to those advocating a so-called Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCTB) across the EU, which the Government is opposed to.
This plan includes making companies pay tax in countries where sales are made rather than where businesses are controlled.
In Ireland's case it would undermine the competitiveness of the 12.5pc corporate tax rate, which has helped make the country a favourite European base for US multinationals.
"We'll have to see, but I hope that the European Union will not be as politically naïve as to think that because Britain is gone it can bully Ireland into agreeing something that some large countries in the European Union want, but some small countries don't," the minister said.
But he accepted it would be harder to get Ireland's interests on the European table post Brexit.
"I think Europe without the United Kingdom is a weaker Europe. It's a Europe that will be less focused on international trade, less focused on competitiveness issues.
"Britain was a big ally for Ireland on lots of things," he said.
He also said Britain will be worse off outside of the EU, and said a debate needs to take place in Britain about whether it's in the country's interests to leave the bloc in such a comprehensive way.
Mr Coveney added: While I agree with the fact that the European Union needs to be bolder in terms of its impact on the world and a force for good, don't assume that the European Union can be run by two or three big countries and everybody else will just have to tow the line.
"If that's the direction the European Union goes in, it won't last, because small countries will leave.
"And that would be a tragedy, for the European Union as a project, but also for many of the countries that will be caught in that squeeze. We need to keep citizens with us."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron agreed last month to draw up a roadmap to deeper EU integration and opened the door to changing the bloc's treaties to facilitate ambitious reform.
In a joint news conference in Berlin with Mr Macron a day after his inauguration, Ms Merkel said we cannot only deal with Britain's exit, but also need to think about how to deepen the existing EU, and especially the eurozone.
Mr Coveney said that while he is a big supporter of the EU and its benefits, there is a need to ensure that further integration is in a form that people can be comfortable with.
"We need to be very careful that we don't take countries for granted. Because they're not choosing to leave the European Union, that they're fully comfortable with some people's view of what full integration looks like," Mr Coveney said.
"Small countries' views matter. We need to make sure that we don't assume because Britain is leaving, that that's the problem of euroscepticism gone. Because it's not. Europe needs to reform, modernise, change."